DDoS attack hits Eighth Amendment referendum crowdfunding website

10 May 20182.53k Views

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Together for Yes website. Image: Together for Yes

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A crowdfunding initiative run by Together for Yes has suffered a DDoS attack.

The digital campaigning element of the imminent referendum in Ireland has seen a massive amount of change in a relatively short time.

Only this week did Facebook and Google place curtailments on digital advertising around the referendum, as Google banned all online ads relating to the Eighth Amendment from its platforms, while Facebook restricted advertising to registered Irish organisations and groups. As the online advertisements mention abortion, they would be restricted by Twitter’s existing ad policies.

Crowdfunding site hit

In another twist, a crowdfunding website for the national civil society group campaigning for a Yes vote was hit by a DDoS attack yesterday evening (9 May). The website, hosted by CauseVox, experienced a DDoS attack from within Ireland. It momentarily disrupted service and brought down CauseVox’s security infrastructure. The attack took place at 5.45pm, which would ordinarily have been a peak time for donations, and the website shut down for 30 minutes.

CauseVox also hosts crowdfunding pages for Amnesty International Ireland and Terminations for Medical Reasons – both groups that are campaigning for a Yes vote later in the month. Amnesty Ireland director Colm O’Gorman confirmed its website was down for approximately 45 minutes.

Sarah Monaghan, Together for Yes spokesperson, said: “We are continuing to investigate this extremely serious incident and are actively consulting security experts in the field to help identify the specific source of the attack, and have made a report to Gardaí.

“Together for Yes is a national grassroots movement which relies on small donations from large numbers of people. Our crowdfund initiative is a core element of the manner in which we resource our campaign and therefore we would take extremely seriously any attempt to undermine it.”

A spokesperson for Amnesty International explained the issue further to Siliconrepublic.com: “We were informed by CauseVox, the hosting platform, that there was a DDOS attack originating from Ireland. The website was interrupted at 5.45pm for around 45 minutes.

“This is obviously a serious issue, but also an indication of the lengths some will go to try shut down our efforts to counter such misinformation. We will continue our online campaign to counter misinformation across as many platforms as possible.”

The spokesperson noted that CauseVox is a reputable platform and that the site was up and running soon after the initial attack. They added that CauseVox had assured them that steps to mitigate such attacks in future were being taken. The incident is still under investigation.

DDoS explained

A DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack’s main aim is to make a target website, machine or network resource unavailable.

Usually, this type of cyberattack is accomplished by drowning a system (a server, for example) with data requests. This can then cause the website to crash. A database could also be hit with a massive volume of queries. In this particular case, the result is an overwhelmed website.

Impact from DDoS attacks can vary from mild disruption to total denial of service to entire websites, apps or even businesses.

DDoS attacks have grown exponentially in scale, and occur quite often in the cybercrime world. In the 1990s, a DDoS incident would have typically involved 150 requests per second, but attacks these days can exceed 1,000Gbps.

The Mirai botnet is a prime example of a modern DDoS attack. A massive attack also occurred on GitHub earlier in 2018, using a new technique called ‘memcaching’.

Updated, 4.28pm, 10 May 2018: This article was updated to include comments from an Amnesty International spokesperson.

Updated, 6.21pm, 10 May 2018: A correction has been made to clarify that individual websites hosted by CauseVox, and not the entire platform, were affected by this attack.

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com